Young Rilke and His Time

Young Rilke and His Time

George C. Schoolfield


Camden House



A look at neglected aspects of the early career of one of the premier poets of the German language.
Although Rainer Maria Rilke and his work have been much studied and written about over the past century -- as befits the perhaps most important German-language poet of modern times -- certain aspects of his early life and career have been neglected or are in need of a fresh look. Accordingly, this book investigates Rilke's life and career from adolescence until the verge of thirty. Here the reader finds the hysterical, harried tutee clinging to Valerie von Rhonfeld; the clever, supercilious, and anxious stroller through Prague of Larenopfer; the narcissistic diarist preening for Lou Andreas-Salomé in Italy and elsewhere; the priggishly high-minded but lethal reviewer of German-language literature; the devoted but delusional presenter of Nordic letters. A final section focuses on thirteen poems or poem clusters composed between 1892 and 1900 and mostly left untouched by Rilke scholarship. While depending heavily on the evidence of the texts themselves, the present author allows himself to conjecture about, for instance, the traces left by the boy's hasty training in Latin; his knowledge -- or ignorance -- of Czech national opera and popular literature; the genesis of some willfully "decadent" poems; his odd literary likes and dislikes; and so on. From this "Wirrnis" (confusion, muddle; one of his favorite words), the young Rilke emerges as a dogged self-educator, and, for all his laments and insecurities and languorous poses, a figure of distinction, gifted with an almost preternatural verbal inventiveness and recondite energy.

George C. Schoolfield is Emeritus Professor of German and Scandinavian Literature at Yale.

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December 2008
463 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571131881
Format: Hardback
Camden House
BISAC LIT004170, LIT014000, BIO007000
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Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
Vally, Hidigeigei, and Others
Larenopfer: A Commentary
Three Diaries, 1898-1900
Lou Andreas-Salomé's Russian Diary, 1900
Rilke's Diary from Westerwede and Paris, 1902
Rilke as Reviewer of German-Language Literature
Rilke as Reviewer of Scandinavian Literature
"Der alte Invalid"
"An den Grafen von Platen"
"Die Liese wird heute just sechzehn Jahr"
"Weißes Glück"
"Aus einem Bauernsommer" and "Vom Tode"
"In der Certosa"
"Die Heiligen Drei Könige"
"Aus dem hohen Jubelklanggedränge" and "Im Musiksaal"
"Karl der Zwölfte von Schweden reitet in der Ukraine"
Select Bibliography


The first service Young Rilke and His Time provides is that it develops a new interest on that phase of Rilke's work and life that lies before Rilke's acquaintance with Rodin in Paris . . . . A further service is that it embeds the young Rilke and a variety of his texts in an impressively broad culture-historical panorama . . . . Overall, [Schoolfield] offers multifaceted information about an important segment of Rilke's life and work in the fin de siècle. GERMAN QUARTERLY

An absorbing book, a work of exemplary scholarship, cleverly arranged, well written, and readable. AUSTRIAN HISTORY YEARBOOK

Schoolfield's forte, here as elsewhere, is his ability to provide background information in encyclopaedic detail to explain references to people, texts, places and events.. By combining paraphrase with explanatory contextual information, Schoolfield's commentaries provide a detailed account of Rilke's life, experiences and reading in these years. JOURNAL OF EUROPEAN STUDIES

Schoolfield does an excellent job of chronicling Rilke's quirky relationships and extensive travels, notably with Lou Andreas-Salomé in Italy and Russia. [T]his is a treasure trove of scholarship, well written, and full of compelling details. CHOICE

Schoolfield's monograph is dedicated, in meticulously exact detail, to the approximately twelve years between Rilke's matriculation in Prague in 1892 and his visit to Scandinavia in 1904. . . . [It] contributes to the cultural transfer of Rilke to the English-speaking world . . . as an extensive reference work on a phase [of Rilke's] work and life that has been . . . underrepresented in the scholarship. ARBITRIUM

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